Former Flintshire AM 'misled' bullying investigation, tribunal told

Reporter:

Kate Forrester and Hayley Collins

A FLINTSHIRE councillor, and former AM and police chief, has appeared at a tribunal accused of trying to mislead a local government watchdog investigation.

Ewloe councillor Alison Halford, former Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, appeared at an Adjudication Panel for Wales tribunal at Northop Hall Country House Hotel yesterday.

Cllr Halford is accused of breaching the councillors’ Code of Conduct by seeking to mislead an investigation by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales into the conduct of fellow councillor Patrick Heesom.

He is being scrutinised over allegations of bullying towards Flintshire Council officers, including during the appointment of a new housing department chief.

Both councillors were members of the recruitment panel for the role.

Andrew Walsh, the Ombudsman’s director of investigations, told the adjudication panel Cllr Halford, who was Delyn’s first AM, had provided a statement in support of Cllr Heesom when interviewed by investigators last June.

In her statement, she said: “I would describe Cllr Heesom as a very knowledgeable member, who questions and challenges officers.

“I have not seen any evidence of bullying or harassment by Cllr Heesom.”

But Mr Walsh and the Ombudsman’s lawyer, Tony Child, said the statement was at odds with a number of emails sent by Cllr Halford to other people, as well as a journal kept by the council’s leader Arnold Woolley.

Following a meeting in February 2009 to appoint a new head of housing, Cllr Woolley wrote in his journal: “I have spoken with Cllr Halford and she was concerned at the selection and very concerned at the way Cllr Heesom had spoken to and treated the officers.”

A separate journal entry following a phone call between Cllr Halford and Cllr Woolley stated: “Cllr Halford referred to Patrick Heesom as an arrogant and aggressive fellow.”

The hearing was told that in an email to the council’s interim assistant director of HR Pam Webb regarding Cllr Heesom, Cllr Halford had said: “I must tell him I am no longer his friend after the meeting. He is clever, but a bully and destructive.”

But barrister Colin Crawford, who is representing Cllr Halford, said Cllr Woolley’s journal could not be relied upon.

He said: “Your diary is not a fair, accurate and balanced attempt. It is selective.”

The tribunal, which is expected to last two days, continues.

See full story in the Leader

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